It was only a few years ago that people who maintained a survival backpack were considered crackpots and paranoid. In more recent years, many people have learned the true value of having a backup plan for disaster survival. We aren’t just talking terrorist attack either, there is simply no way to know when disaster may strike be it man-made or natural.

What if this appears in your area?

A True Assest

A Survival Backpack is a true asset in a survival situation for a number of reasons. Easy to grab if you need to “Bug Out”, easy to carry when running, or hiking and highly portable. Everyone from survival enthusiasts to former SAS members have an opinion on what should go in your Survival Backpack and that’s where it can get tricky.

Some Basic Maths – Don’t Worry It’s Easy

The amount of things you pack and what you pack is completely driven by numbers. As there is a weight tradeoff the amount of things you can carry vs the number of people you need to carry things for is important. Tools are of course reusable however food will eventually run down. Make sure when doing the numbers you plan to have at least 3 days worth of food and water per person to get started with.

Backpack And Bag Types

If you plan to do a lot of walking with your survival backpack, it’s highly recommended that you use an external frame type backpack. The frame is a must in cold environments, as it keeps the backpack from direct contact with your back, this reduces sweat. Sweat in cold environments can lead to hypothermia, that’s bad!

The most common type of frame backpack is the Military surplus ALICE style pack. (All purpose, Lightweight, Individual, Carrying, Equipment). ALICE pack are literally battlefield tested so you know it can take a real hammering. There are lots of alternatives however you need to be careful as you don’t to to end up with a cheap rubbish bag.

The choice ultimately, is yours

I’m going to share some of the ideas i’ve got and some of the ideas i’ve researched from around the interwebs!

There is nearly unlimited amount of website out there offering survival packages, some are excellent, however most people agree the best survival pack is the one you prepare yourself. When you’ve packed your own bag, you know intimately what’s in it, ideally you also know how to use all the gear without a second thought.

How much to pack in your survival backpack

How much stuff?

Most commercially sold survival backpack kits are usually designed to allow you to survive self-contained for up to 3 days. This seems to be a generally accepted standard because obviously there is a limit as to what you can carry on your back. Setting yourself a 3 day target is a good place to start.

There is an incredible temptation to want to pack every thing and be prepared for every scenario you can think of. While this would be great however remember, you have to carry the damn thing, maybe even run with. This means multipurpose equipment and survival essentials should guide your equipment and choice of supplies.

What to pack?

This is really where it gets tricky. I’m going to provide a overview of the “categories” of things that make up a good bug out bag and suggest a few items. Ultimately though, the weight you’re happy to carry and time you want your kit to last will drive your final decisions.

Food and Water

Plan to carry enough food for three days. The food can’t require refrigeration or cooking. Here’s some ideas:

  • Water Packets – 4.224 ounces (125 ml) each.
  • Food Bars – 3 days, 2 people, 5 Year Shelf Life.
  • Think about things like, Energy bars, MREs and freeze dried meals
  • Water Purification Tablets – Each tablet purifies 1 qt of water.
  • Water Filter: pocket-sized emergency water filter (filters up to 20 gallons of water, removing 99.9% of Giardia & Cryptosporidium)
  • Canteen + Cup


If you cannot use your home for shelter your survival backpack is going to have to come up why the goods. Here’s some essentials:

  • Blankets – make sure you have enough for everyone in your family, in the case of small children or even a couple you can save weight by sharing a blanket.
  • Ponchos – durable, keeps you dry in the rain. They can also be used as an overhead shelter.
  • Emergency Bivvy Sacks – These are lightweight sleeping bags that retain most of your body heat and reflect it back to you.
  • 2 Person Tent – Two-person emergency shelter keeps you out of the wind and weather. A real tent; not a piece of plastic.
  • All Weather Thermal Blanket – Rugged, heavy duty thermal blanket for emergency use. Much thicker than an emergency blanket. Also use for overhead shelter or ground cover.

If you spare the room, include one change of clothing for each family member, plus several pairs of underwear and socks, nothing boost morale more than a fresh pair of socks!

More On Clothing

Hiking Shoes – Perfect For the survival backpack

The type of clothing is very similar to what you would pack for a weekend backpacking trip. This is also often the best way to test you’ve packed the right stuff. Better to find out in a low stress environment rather than when you’re fighting for your life!

Here’s a sample of some suggested stuff:

  • A pair of sturdy boots or shoes
  • A pair of long pants, I recommend cargo style here
  • 2 Pairs of socks wool makes the best socks
  • 2 Shirts go for long and short sleeve
  • A Jacket that is both warm and offers protection from the elements
  • Warm underwear
  • A hat

Fire Starting

  • Windproof Matches – Strong flame stands up to the wind – Waterproof. 1 box of 20.
  • Magnesium Fire Starter Uses magnesium as flame source of 5400° F. One fire starter should provide sufficient shavings to start dozens of fires. The spark will ignite any form of tinder.


  • Rescue Signal Mirror – You can flash overhead aircraft, boats out to sea, or people from the next ridge over.
  • Rescue Howler Whistle – Blow the whistle instead of yelling your lungs out. A whistle carries further and you won’t get tired.

First Aid

The contents of a First Aid Kit is the subject of another whole article. Like packing your own bug out bag I recommend that you create your own First Aid Kit instead of buying a prepackaged one. Building your own first aid kit gives you an intimate knowledge of what it contains and how to use it.



Hygiene and Sanitation

When you aren’t sure how long you will be without power or utilities, the simple act of freshening up can boost your morale.

  • Razors
  • Multi-Purpose Soap,Shampoo,Shave Cream
  • Toothbrush w/Case
  • Toothpaste
  • Face Cloths
  • Wet Wipes
  • Sanitary Pads (also useful for large wounds)
  • Personal Tissue Rolls


  • Notepad
  • Pencil
  • Deck of playing cards for entertainment

So, Where Are You Going To Bug Out To?

It’s one thing to have a fully prepared survival backpack, however when you grab it where are you planning to run to?

Here’s some things to think about:

  • Do you have a property? Do you own an assest that is in a reasonably safe place out of a major city? If not can you identify a part of reserve?
  • Have you done a recon on the area? Can you just turn up there? is it a difficult journey on foot?

Obviously you can’t just descend on an existing families house you might get a less than warm reception. Plan around this find a neutral place that you can go if “bugging out” is part of your plan.

Direction and way finding

Forget the fancy GPS they may not work, you’ll need to refer back to a good ol’ map. For this you’ll need maps of the local area and routes selected and highlighted. Add a good quality manual compass to your equipment.

Practice And Test

Finally, once you’ve assembled your kit and decided on a number of evacuation plans you’ll need to test your gear out. The best way to do this is go camping and do a “mock” survival situation. See if you can live from your survival backpack for two days. Use the food, drink the water, use the tools and give everything a good going over.

By creating a survival backpack, planning an evacuation plan and testing all your kit if the time does come to “bug out” you’ll have the best possible chance.

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NRA Certified Instructor Tim Hallinan there! I’m Andy. I grew up in Massachusetts – one of the states that hates firearms the most. Growing up, I was never allowed to own even a squirt gun, a BB gun, go hunting, or be around anyone with guns. Today, both my mother and father have a concealed weapon permit. What a change! I moved from Massachusetts to Florida when I was 18 years old and was introduced to a life of firearms. Guns were completely foreign to me, but I started visiting ranges and practicing marksmanship. As soon as I hit 21 I received my concealed carry permit from a local gun shop here in Inverness, FL and I’ve always had a knack for training others. “Today, my mission is simple – to help arm the community to make sure that criminals and kooks are not the only ones with guns.”


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